Expository Exultationby John Piper
Length: Approximately 12 hours.
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In Expository Exultation, John Piper closes his trilogy on the Bible with a powerful explanation of and call to biblical preaching. Piper reminds us that preaching is worship that calls for worship.
Who should read this?
This book is a must-read for preachers and aspiring preachers. This book gave me a richer view of what preaching is and what preachers are called to do, and I believe that anyone that is actively engaged in preaching would benefit from this book.
We live in a day when preaching has been minimized. Church growth experts encourage us to keep sermons short and practical to avoid losing people’s attention. Preachers are more and more afraid of preaching on controversial subjects for fear of offending their congregations. Some churches have done away with preaching from the Bible altogether.
This is part of what makes Expository Exultation such a breath of fresh air. In this masterful work, John Piper, one of the most influential preachers of the last half-century, calls on preachers to recover a biblical vision of what preaching is. According to Piper, “One of the primary burdens of this book is to show that preaching not only assists worship, but also is worship.”
This sentence means a great deal to me personally. I’m a worship music leader at my local church, and I’m burdened by the terminology that we use surrounding worship. We don’t “worship” and then listen to a sermon; we worship though music and then worship through the preaching of God’s Word. I’m so incredibly grateful to John Piper for advocating this view of preaching.
This book is the third in a trilogy of books by Piper on the Bible. The first two are A Peculiar Glory and Reading the Bible Supernaturally. This book is divided into 7 parts and 21 chapters. Part 1 examines the setting for preaching. Taking nothing for granted, Piper argues from Scripture that corporate worship is “fitting.” It is what we are called to do. In part 2, Piper argues that preaching, what he calls “expository exultation,” is designed to be central to corporate worship.
In part 3, Piper shows how preaching is supernatural and must rely on the power of the Holy Spirit to be effective in any ultimate way. He devotes a chapter in this part to how he does this in his own preaching. Part 4 is about how preaching is also natural and must exhibit clear logic and good speaking ability on the part of the preaching.
Parts 3 and 4 of the book are ultimately about the act of preaching, and they are a tension that must be managed well by every preacher. It is ultimately the Holy Spirit’s work to convict our hearers, so we must rely on His supernatural strength. Nevertheless, we must still seek to craft excellent sermons and deliver them as best we can.
Parts 5-7 focus on the content of sermons. Part 5 addresses how preachers are to make the connection between the actual text and the reality behind the text clear. Part 6 looks at the three pervasive emphases that are behind expository exultation. These three are the glory of God, the Gospel of Christ, and the path of love that leads to life and the obedience of faith. Finally, Chapter 7 is an examination on how to do expository exultation in the Old Testament.
This is an important book that I hope every preacher or aspiring preacher will consider reading. There are nuggets of pure gold all over these pages. It was written by one of the greatest preachers in my generation. John Piper has for decades preached God’s Word in a passionate, biblical, and clear way that has made an incalculable impact for the Kingdom of God. In a very real sense, this book is a distillation of his life and ministry as it relates to preaching.
First and foremost, as can be expected in any of Piper’s books, this book is thoroughly biblical. John takes absolutely nothing for granted, which explains why the first chapter is a biblical argument for why we should engage in corporate worship at all. Chapter 3, “How Paul Brought Heralding into the House of God,” was absolutely thrilling.
I sat on a park bench reading that chapter with goosebumps on my arms and a burning in my bones to jump up and preach. In this chapter, Piper appeals to Paul’s letters to show the setting, content, and nature of preaching. His analysis of 2nd Timothy 3:14-4:2 on pages 61-68 was breathtaking. The connection that he made between the nature of Scripture as “God-breathed” in 3:16 and the command to “herald the Word” in 4:2 gave me a renewed sense of confidence in the power of the Word and the need of the preacher to herald it with boldness.
Second, I loved the tension between parts 3-4 in regard to the preacher being dependent on the power of the Spirit and also working his hardest in the delivery of sermons. Piper wrote, “The chief and ultimate aims of preaching are impossible apart from the miraculous working of the Holy Spirit.” He also said, “God’s ordinary way of revealing His glory to the hearts of His people is not by circumventing their natural powers but by making those powers the means of supernatural discovery.”
Both are true. The preacher must work, but it is God who works through him (Philippians 2:12-13).
Third, Piper’s insistence that “preaching is worship seeking worship” gives preaching a totally different character and emphasis than what we see in the contemporary church. Preaching is worship for the preacher because, as Piper said, “as he preaches the treasure, he is treasuring. As he holds up the pearl, he is prizing. As he invites to the banquet, he is savoring the feast.”
Preaching also calls on the hearers to worship. Paul said in Galatians 3:1 that in the preaching that they had heard, “Jesus Christ was publicly portrayed as crucified.” In 2nd Corinthians 4:4-6, it is through “proclaiming Jesus Christ as Lord” that God removes the blindness of unbelievers and shines in their hearts “to give the light of the knowledge of God’s glory in the face of Jesus Christ.” Preaching is worship that holds Jesus Christ before the people and calls upon them to behold Him in all of His power and beauty. This is expository exultation.
This really is a great book. There aren’t many weaknesses in the actual content. My main critique has to do with the writing. In many ways, this is a typical Piper book. My critiques of this book would probably the same as my critiques of many of his other books. In general, I felt that this book could have been shorter without sacrificing any of the essential content. John loves to repeat himself to make a point, and this is effective in preaching, but in writing, it makes for a laborious read.
Also, a reader that has read a lot of John Piper’s books will begin to notice that many of the same themes, stories, and ideas are repeated in many of his books. I almost skipped over the section where he looks at Jonathan Edwards Essay on the Trinity, not because it’s not an absolutely brilliant essay and not because John’s analysis of it isn’t good, but because I’ve read it before in about 3 of his other books.
It’s okay for an author with a body of work like John Piper to refer readers to his other works rather than repeating yourself in every book. It makes the read more difficult and laborious for readers that have read the other material, and if I wanted a refresher in that material, I can just go read the other book. This is the reason why I can only give this book 4 and a half stars and not 5.
Expository Exultation is a must-read for preachers of the gospel. This book casts a massive and powerful vision of what preaching is, and it’s absolutely essential that preachers in our day recapture the biblical vision of Christian preaching as worship that calls for worship. Buy this book and read deeply for the good of your preaching and the good of your people.